Paris(AP) - Five-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong could see his plans for a record sixth victory next month disrupted by the fall-out from a
potentially damaging book which alleges the American has been involved in doping since recovering from cancer in 1998.
Entitled LA Confidential - The secrets of Lance Armstrong and co-written by award-winning Sunday Times journalist David Walsh and Pierre Ballester, a
cycling specialist formerly with L'Equipe, the soon-to-be-published book contains allegations which appear in this week's L'Express, a weekly
The 33-year-old Armstrong, an icon to millions of people around the world since recovering from cancer in 1998, continues to strenuously deny that he
has ever taken performance enhancing drugs. But at the Tour de France in 1999 he failed a test for the corticosteroid triamcinolone - a banned
substance which is found in some medicines and creams - although cycling's ruling body the UCI did not sanction him for the offence.
The revelations could blow a hole in Armstrong's career
His expoits on the world famous race, which he has won every year since 1999, have motivated thousands of people whether they be cyclists or cancer
sufferers. However claims by a former physiotherapist with the US Postal team, Irishwoman Emma O'Reilly, that Armstrong succumbed to using the banned
blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) threaten to take the shine off the American's glittering reputation.
O'Reilly worked with Armstrong for three and a half years from 1998 and was in almost constant contact with his close-knit team. She reveals how,
among other dubious tasks, she was asked by Armstrong to dispose of bags containing syringes after the end of the Tour of Holland in 1998, only months
after the Festina drugs scandal at the Tour de France almost brought the race to its knees.
O'Reilly also says that in May 1999, while Armstrong was at a training camp in the Pyrenees, she was asked to drive to Spain to collect drugs and
bring them back into France, which she later handed to Armstrong at a rendez-vous in a car park. If true, the revelations could blow a hole in the
career of Armstrong, who thanks to numerous endorsements with multi-national companies now earns around $16-million a year.
Armstrong has always strenuously denied taking performance enhancing drugs and has only tested positive once - for a corticostroid at the Tour de
France in 1999, for which cycling's world ruling body the UCI did not sanction him. Armstrong has even issued the book's co-author Walsh - the Sunday
Times chief sports reporter - with a letter saying he faces a costly legal battle if it is alleged in the book that he has resorted to doping.
However, it is not the first time the American has been in the doping spotlight. Days before the start of the Tour in 2001 Walsh revealed that
Armstrong had had close links with notorious Italian doctor Michele Ferrari.
Ferrari was formerly the team doctor to the Gewiss-Ballan team, which he was forced to leave after he infamously claimed that the banned blood booster
EPO (erythropoietin), if used properly, was no more harmful than orange juice. The Italian has since been a target of Italian magistrates
investigating the shady world of doping.
Armstrong, who it was alleged made several consultation trips to see Ferrari in Italy, hit back that he had only consulted Ferrari on advanced
training methods with a view to attempting to break the world hour record - which he has yet to attempt.
Although a detection test for EPO exists, the drug is still believed to be rampant in the peloton as it can only be detected if it has been taken
within three days of the test.
O'Reilly's claims are backed by those of New Zealander Stephen Swart, a former team-mate of Armstrong's when they both rode for the Motorola team in
1994 and 1995.
Swart retired from professional cycling nine years ago and admitted that his decision to succumb to doping was because of pressure from the team.
"Motorola was throwing all this money at the team and we had to come up trumps," he is quoted as saying in the book, to be published this week.
Armstrong will saddle up on July 3 in an attempt to win a record sixth Tour de France - a feat that has never been done.